When the story about Bill Hybels first broke, I didn't want to believe it. Although I'm a vocal advocate for women and trusted some of the voices crying foul, I was committed to thinking the best about Hybels until proven otherwise. For more than two decades, Hybels had inspired me from afar. I trusted and respected him, often praising him as a role model of egalitarian leadership for the evangelical church. I had devoured most of his books, including, "Who You Are When No One's Looking," a title that still sits on my shelf today. I now know Hybels’ answer to that question, at least in part, and to my horror, is nothing of what I would have predicted.
When I read the New York Times article reporting new accusations from Bill's former executive assistant I realized I could no longer live in denial. And I wept.
I wept for the women who were humiliated and abused by a pastor they respected and trusted.
I wept for the women who, for decades, were forced to navigate ministry leadership and personal safety in an organization that was publicly praised as the standard for excellence.
I wept at the possibility that more victims have yet to come forward.
I wept at the filthy stained testimony on the Bride of Christ.
And today, I'm struggling.
I'm struggling to understand how a leader that I admired and trusted so much could live this double life for so long.
I'm struggling to comprehend how this predatory behavior could go unexposed for decades and grieved at how quickly good leaders fall prey to the institutional forces of self-preservation at the expense of justice and integrity.
I'm struggling to keep my head above an ocean of hopelessness that threatens to drown me in the sorrow of all that has been lost.
It's a wake-up call to just how deep the sinister threads of patriarchy run. Apparently, your church can be unapologetically egalitarian, and you can be a national voice for women, yet still abuse them for your own sexual gratification.
The only thing I cling to is that despite how grievous this feels, God has exposed the sin. What has gone on in darkness is finally coming to light, and I believe it's mainly because of the #metoo movement. Women are banning together and finding the courage to lay it ALL out there. And the Holy Spirit is cleansing the Church so that we can't pretend this is just a "worldly" problem and not a "church" problem. It's a human problem. It's a sin problem.
So today, I pray and lament. And believe it or not, my prayers include Bill Hybels. I pray he will show the strength of character that we've come to expect by owning and confessing his sin. I pray that he will fall on The Rock and be entirely broken because maybe then God will craft something new and beautiful from this heaping pile of rubble.